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27 June 2014

Precise and pastoral: Barry Lyndon, shown with the Duchess of Kent

Precise and pastoral: Barry Lyndon, shown with the Duchess of Kent

Simon Lindley writes:

BARRY LYNDON, Clerk of the Royal College of Organists for almost a quarter of a century, until 1990, died in hospital in Stevenage on 25 May, aged 83. During retirement, Barry served for a period as Clerk to the Ouseley Trust. He knew everyone in organ and church music, and everyone knew him: many held him in deep affection and respect. His MBE in the 1990 New Year Honours gave immense pleasure to his many friends.

A chorister under Sir William McKie at Magdalen College, Oxford, Barry achieved early prowess as an athlete, maintaining a deep respect for McKie throughout his life, and also a loving concern for the well-being of Magdalen College School and for the College Chapel Choir. "KBL" was close to Sir John Dykes Bower, Sir William's successor as Honorary Secretary of the RCO, and to many College Presidents. He was a great fan of garden cities, a (very) keen cyclist, and supporter of musical institutions, including the St Albans International Organ Festival, founded by Peter Hurford.

It may well have been Sir William who suggested that, after a career in hotel management, Barry should work for the RCO as Appeal Secretary in 1964. A year later, he succeeded to the post of Clerk to the College, making this position particularly his own.

His attire advised one what was on the agenda: spruce suit indicated meetings, and desk work; brown coat akin to Arkwright's in Open all Hours meant that serious endeavour including cleaning, moving chairs, and other non-clerkly duties was imminent. There was a small but highly effectual staff, none referred to by Christian name, but all valued greatly by Barry for what they brought to the College.

A remarkable sense of duty and self-discipline was combined with military precision. No College examiner could ever recall Barry without thinking of that final check at a session end known as "call-over" - a very serious procedure, possibly inherited from his predecessor, Mr Hughes. There was, simply, nothing like it.

In his day, the College was based in the building originally occupied by the Royal College of Music, just west of the Royal Albert Hall in Kensington Gore. RCM students laboured at seemingly ceaseless practice in the capacious basement. Many students trod the path to the RCO seeking information, general help, and even pastoral care.

Barry kept his many friendships in good repair, and was kindness personified to those for whom, he felt, life might prove difficult. In latter years, together with his devoted wife, Hessie, who, with their two sons, survives him, the College became something of a Lyndon family affair. Besides typing and secretarial work, Hessie contributed stunning floral arrangements for great events, and supported Barry in his work indefatigably. There were many protocols in place, not least those surrounding the cutting and serving of cherry Genoa cake at the twice-yearly diploma presentations.

His views on the Church of England were traditional, and staunchly held. By his work for the College and in many other ways, Barry provided invaluable help for countless church-music amateurs as well as professionals - help manifested in many forms, and enhanced by a genial tolerance of eccentricity, and a huge appreciation for those he regarded as upholders of a great tradition.

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